Which Brands are Winning the Medals?

I am very scared of using the ‘O’ word in case I’m infringing some IOC regulations and will provoke litigation from their venal lawyers, but you know what I’m referring to. At the time of writing we are nearing the end of the first week of London 2012 and I don’t think it’s too early to start asking which brands will carry off the medals. How, as a brand, do you win a medal you might ask? Well I am setting the rules and they are very simple – you get a Gold, Silver or Bronze if your brand emerges much stronger, stronger, or a bit stronger as a result of the London 2012 Olympic Games (there – I’ve said it, do your worst). You get a lemon if, by my judgement, you should have saved your time and money and steered well clear.

Let’s start with the obvious – the sponsors. There are three levels in case you didn’t know. You can be a Worldwide Partner, a London Partner or a London Supporter. If I asked you to name more than two in any category you’d struggle. In fact there are 11, 7 and 7 respectively so there are a few lemons to be awarded.

I’m going to give both Adidas and Omega Gold – this is the greatest show on earth, it’s all about time and sporting kit so however well or badly you might have activated it, however much it cost, well done. Rolex does Wimbledon, Omega does the Olympics, Nike do, well, just about everything else, Adidas does the Olympics. Perfect.

I’ll give Coca Cola a Silver – it is arguably the best brand in the world, it has supported unarguably the best event in the world for years now and they always seem to do it with class.

Bronze for P&G – some nice ads, I suspect some good awareness and saliency scores (you can bet the boys from Cincinnati will analyze the numbers more closely than any games official for any event) and I reckon they will have added some warmth to a corporate brand that has lacked it. Bit like the British gymnasts – unexpected but a nice result.

Lemons for just about everyone else, but especially McDonalds and Cadbury. What were you thinking when you signed the contract? About as smart as an Arms dealer sponsoring Amnesty International. Do you need the awareness – No. Does it in any way relate to your brand values – No. But what about Coca Cola, couldn’t you say the same thing about them? It’s not fair! No, it’s not fair but that’s the way it is. Coke can get away with it, they have heritage, they do it with class and actually yes I can imagine many of the athletes, from China even, enjoying ice cold Coke pre and post an event. It’s an authenticity and status thing.

Now let’s move beyond the obvious brands – there are many other reputations to be enhanced or undermined by the London Olympics. What about the personalities?

I award Gold to Boris Johnson and David Beckham – I think both will emerge much stronger brands as a result of these Games. Boris is really starting to look like a future PM and dare I say it, World Statesman. Like all great brands he has added something new to the mix in his category, politics – humour, honesty, the ability to make the odd mistake, own up to it and be liked all the more for it. In David Beckham we are witnessing the transition from Football Icon to Sport Icon, almost a national treasure.

Silver for Stella McCartney and Danny Boyle –they’ve been brave, they too have added a whole new dimension to their reputations, well done.

Seb Coe – Bronze. Why? I just think we admire him a bit more but we don’t like him any better. I confess this is very subjective – I always preferred Lennon to McCartney and I always liked Ovett more than Coe. Mind you, if Boris, Seb, Cameron and Miliband went head to head for President of the UK the day the games finished, might that be the result, Boris first, Seb second…..?

Of course we don’t have a President, we have a monarch, indeed we have the monarchy. They don’t compete in anything or seek election to anything or sell anything (except Britain Plc) so I can’t award a medal. Pity because it would have been gold. (And I’m a Republican).

I’d like to award a Lemon or three to some nations but am far too scared to name names or explain why. There are many reasons why the Olympics are the greatest show on earth but central among them is the coming together of nations in the universal appeal of sport and sporting values. Nations competing in the Olympics can reinforce their brand perceptions, they can worsen them. If I was the marketing director of a country – and I think every country should have a marketing director that is not called Head of Tourism of Chief Spin Doctor – I’d see the Olympics as an amazing opportunity to promote the brand. I think some national brands will emerge weaker after these games and it has got nothing to do with who won most medals, just the way they won them and the way they, officials and athletes handled themselves. But there is one Gold that should be awarded to a country/city brand.

My final Gold goes jointly to London and Great Britain – worth every penny it cost.

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